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Ramapo Class To Study Crossroads' Impact

Officials say this is the start to a 'more meaningful' relationship between the township and the college campus

Mahwah’s government will get some free help sifting through the from a environmental assessment class. Last week, Mahwah’s mayor and representatives from the township’s planning board, environmental commission and ‘Sustainable Mahwah’ group met with the class to iron out the details of the agreement.

According to a release from the senior year Environmental Studies students, they will be preparing an “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to explore the socio-economic, ecological, and physical impacts” of the plan for the development of a 750,000 square foot “lifestyle” shopping center at the intersection of Routes 17 and 287. The goal of the project, students say, is to give the township “objective evidence about the impacts this development project will have on the residents and the environment and help facilitate a positive decision for the use of this land.”

According to Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet the student study will be considered alongside professional reviews of the shopping center’s development plan.  He said he feels both the township and the college will benefit from the project. “For the kids, it is a great hands-on experience that will have a big impact in the real world and for Mahwah they are a great resource,” Laforet said.

According to Professor Mike Edelstein, whose Environmental Assessment class will be conducting the analysis of the Crossroads development, this is in line with the types of projects that act as capstones to the environmental studies program. “We always choose a real life project and the kids work on issues that matter,” Edelstein, who said he’s been teaching the course this way for about 30 years, said.

According to Edelstein, past Ramapo analysis projects have included studies on I-287 (before, during and after it was built), the campus’s emergency response plan, the impact of , the , hydrofracking, and the impact of the destruction of the World Trade Center on lower Manhattan.

The class provides the results of its studies to the “clients” who commission them. In the case of the Crossroads study, the results will be given to the township’s Environmental Commission.

Edelstein said the class will be divided so that each student will work on a particular aspect of the study. The seniors will be looking at potential surface water issues, flooding, air pollution, noxious conditions at the site, lights, noises, odors, and health and safety considerations of the development, among other considerations. “The students will not support or oppose any particular use of the land,” Edelstein said. “We are just hoping this kind of research will be useful to the town and can help untangle a complicated local decision.”

As a part of the process, the class will hold three public meetings to solicit comments from residents and present their findings. The project will be finished this May, right before the students graduate from Ramapo.

Edelstein said this is the first time in recent history that the college has partnered with the township for this type of project.

For Ramapo’s President Dr. Peter Mercer, the partnership is one that makes sense. “Our connection [with the township] in the past has always been positive,” he said. “But, I have always hoped for a more significant and meaningful relationship between the two, and I think this could be a start to that.”

According to Mercer, he is working with Laforet to form a subcommittee of representatives from both the college and the township that will meet regularly to discuss ways to connect the two. “Whether it’s something like this [project] or something like a clean-up day where our students volunteer in the township, there’s a lot that we can do together.”

Laforet said fostering the relationship between the college and Mahwah has been one of his goals. “It can be a great resource for us, and at the same time we can provide a lot to the students who are living and learning here,” he said.

Ramapo College senior Kelly Schaeff, who is an environmental studies major and will be working on the Crossroads project, agreed. “I am personally excited about this particular project because development of the Crossroads is very important,” she said. “This assessment will be challenging and it will reflect all of the collective efforts of our graduating Environmental Studies class. I feel we are definitely capable and prepared to do a complete and thorough assessment.”

resident February 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
That is a great idea. I think school's should be more involved in everything that is going on. This is a very important time for students studying history and political science.
Andy Schmidt February 02, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I'm very encouraged. There are so many opportunities, for our school system, for volunteer groups - and the township, where the huge potential of the college, its faculty and student body, could be a valuable resource. Per example, so many non-profits are struggling to manage their P/R, their web sites, their accounting and other aspects of their "business" - if these "projects" could be matched to suitable college courses then both sides would benefit. Students would gain hands-on experience with real-life tasks and face actual problems and restrictions that they might not encounter in an isolated class-room setting.
Jonathan N. Marcus February 02, 2012 at 04:59 PM
As President of the Ramapo College Alumni Association and a proud Mahwah resident, I am so very thrilled to hear of this news. Kudos to both Mayor Laforet and President Mercer.
resident February 02, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I AGREE. I THINK THE HISTORY DEPARTMENT AT MAHWAH HIGH SCHOOL SHOULD CREATE A PROGRAM TO CLEAN UP THE CEMETARY ON MOFFIT STREET. HUGE PART OF AMERICAN HISTORY SITTING ON THE HIGHWAY RIGHT IN MAHWAH.
Andy Schmidt February 02, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Yes, that is a great location and deserves to be preserved/restored. There is also a slave cemetery between 202 and the river in the woods behind the art studio of the college. It is amazing how much history is around. You are right, the high school too has programs that could involve township projects. Students would start networking with business leaders and other township "personalities", which might open up job opportunities down the road.
Hank February 02, 2012 at 11:40 PM
The last cleanup and wall rebuild was an Eagle Scout project
Suzanne Curry February 03, 2012 at 03:16 PM
This is an example of a wonderful partnership. I am hoping that the results of the prominent college group will be measured equally alongside the results of the other experts who present their research.
resident February 03, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I hope the first thing they do is get a water sample from standing water on Brook Street and a soil sample. Is anyone following Erin Brockovich new case at Le RoyJunior High School? Very frightening to see what is happening to these high school students. They actually took contaminated soil from a train reck and used it to build the high school. If the soil at the crossroads is contaminated along the river how can they build on that site. They will just be distributing contaminated soil all over the place. Can't do it!!!
Hank February 03, 2012 at 06:29 PM
All summer long day and night there are quads and dirt bikes throwing dust in the air for all of West Mahwah to breath. Now all of a sudden you are worried about it.
resident February 03, 2012 at 06:47 PM
You can't do anything about the quads and dirt bikes. Your house and car will be vandalized so it is not like I just started getting concerned. I do value myproperty and personal safety. This new story about the high school puts a whole new spin on things.
resident February 03, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Hank - go for it. Signing off.
Hank February 03, 2012 at 11:53 PM
thank you it's just that if you think the area is contaminated and you are exposed to dust clouds from dirt bikes, why didn't you have the premises tested years ago? I would think a nice coat of blacktop would be a blessing to your neck of the woods. Just think of all the properties in the area that accepted the "free fill" from those fine people at American Brake Shoe.
resident February 04, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Hank - I did not live here 10 years ago. You seem to assume alot about people yu don't even know. First of all you can not complain about the dirt bikes and quads because to people who ride them over there will vandalize your home anc cars. The people who were riding the bikes and quards are the ones who should get checked out. They were breathing more of the dirt than anymore.

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